The six make-up and hairstyling nominees nominated for an Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar might be more comfortable behind the camera, but they took center stage at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oscar Week symposium on make-up and hairstyling, held Feb. 21.

2015 Oscar Symposium: Madame D make-up piece for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Madame D (The Grand Budapest Hotel) prosthetic piece on cast of actress Tilda Swinton

“We’re people who work behind the camera and not in front of it, so it’s all a bit alien,” said Mark Coulier; he and Frances Hannon were nominated for their work on The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Hosted by Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Branch governor Leonard Engelman and held at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, the event attracted such top industry artists as Howard Berger, Robin Mathews, Tami Lane, Ve Neill, Mike Elizalde, Trefor Proud, Sue Cabral-Ebert, Tommy Cole and Make-Up Artist magazine publisher Michael Key. In addition to a lively discussion, the event included a display of each film’s make-up and hairpieces.

2015 Oscar Symposium: Guardians of the Galaxy Drax make-up
Guardians of the Galaxy Drax make-up

“I love the way Americans always celebrate everything,” said Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, nominated for Guardians of the Galaxy. “The Brits always make everything so low-key. It’s fantastic to walk in and everyone’s so excited about it. How can you not be excited about it, too?”

“I particularly like today because we’re celebrating make-up itself,” agreed David White, who shared the nomination with Yianni-Georgiou. “I’m surrounded by all my idols.”

“It’s been a crazy ride,” said Dennis Liddiard, nominated for Foxcatcher. “I didn’t realize how much work went into all this—all the interviews, the appearances.” But, he added, “It’s fun to show people what you do. Have people recognize it and applaud you for it. So many times you do this stuff and nobody ever knows.”

Engelman kicked off the proceedings by noting, “The nominated films this year are wonderful examples of the very vast range that is the art of make-up and the vast range of the selection process.” He then introduced Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who emphasized the role attendees play in the city’s success.

2015 Oscar Symposium: Leonard Engelman and Eric Garcetti
Branch governor Leonard Engelman (LEFT) greets Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

“Below-the-line, hardworking people are the true backbone of our film industry and of L.A.’s middle class,” said Garcetti. “They define who we are as a city. That’s why I’m so committed to making sure that the film industry continues to stay and grows here in Los Angeles.”

Touting the attractive tax incentive package his office encouraged California to pass, Garcetti drew enthusiastic applause when he announced it should bring $6 billion in film production to the state over the next five years.

But the real stars of the afternoon were the films. Budapest’s Hannon and Coulier agreed that the biggest challenge was Tilda Swinton’s character, Madame D, who was supposed to be played by an older actress. To turn Swinton into an 83-year-old dowager, the team used 11 prosthetic pieces and five hairpieces.

The Guardians of the Galaxy team described the challenges of creating the appearance of real skin in a rainbow of colors. Yianni-Georgiou and her team developed a formula featuring a gas-permeable membrane that allowed the actors to move and sweat, without destroying the look in the process.

But Yianni-Georgiou said Michael Rooker, who played Yondu, wasn’t sold initially. “Michael did a very funny trick on the first day I actually used it on him,” she said. “He told me he was going to the loo, but what he did was run around the block three times, just to test our make-up. The producers arrived. As I’m telling them to come have a look at this lovely make-up we’ve done, this guy was coming up the stairs, completely perspiring. And he says, ‘It works. It really works.’”

2015 Oscar Symposium: Dennis Liddiard and Bill Corso
Dennis Liddiard (LEFT) and Bill Corso with a sculpture of Steve Carell

When Engelman announced that Steve Carell and Channing Tatum would be joining the discussion on Foxcatcher, attendees squealed in delight, then laughed, as Bill Corso and Liddiard took the stage holding masks of the two actors in front of their faces. Corso explained that both stars were at the Independent Spirit Awards. He showed a humorous clip of Carell thanking Corso, then pausing to ask who Corso was.

Corso and Liddiard said the initial challenge of Foxcatcher was doing something they don’t normally do—make movie stars unrecognizable.

“A make-up artist hears on every movie, ‘Whatever you do, don’t lose the actor.’ You always want to see the name above the marquee,” explained Corso, saying that director Bennett Miller insisted the audience see John du Pont, not Steve Carell.

As the afternoon wrapped up with a Q&A, the emphasis was on how vastly different make-up challenges can be. Corso likened it to comparing apples to oranges to peaches. “We were researching real people. They were creating an entire world of characters,” said Corso. “How do you compare those?”

Follow the links for video clips of the nominees’ work and for complete coverage of the 2015 Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar. The complete video of the 2015 Oscar symposium is below.